Polly Campbell: Yeah, I’ve got some opinions

I thought, when given this amazing chance to have a first-person column, I would be offering my opinion on a variety of subjects. I’ve got opinions. But that’s harder than it seems. Hot takes that are very satisfying to share with friends look different when written down and published. They need logical defending and clearly expressed consideration of the alternatives. They require research. 

Well, that’s no fun. But I still have an urge to give you the benefit of my deeply-held opinions on a variety of important subjects, so that’s how I’m starting off 2023. And in the interest of not having to do any research to defend myself, I’m not even including sex, politics or religion. 

Polly Campbell
Polly Campbell

Balsamic vinegar does not belong on Caprese salad. It’s not authentic. When you have perfect vine-ripened tomatoes, basil from the garden, perfect fresh mozzarella and a good olive oil, Caprese salad is sublime. When you don’t, there’s just no point. Most of the time, people don’t have those things. So they pour sweet stuff like balsamic or worse, balsamic reduction, as a distraction. Eat some other kind of salad from October to June, and leave Caprese for high summer. 

If I had three wishes to make anything on Earth disappear, I would have to go with hunger and war for the first two, I guess. But then it would be leaf blowers. 

I used to think it was weird to talk about “dog moms,” thinking that parenthood should only apply within the same species. I think I get people’s attachments to their pets, but the other day I saw a reference to “plant moms.” That’s too much. As my husband observed, I’m against plant parenthood. 

Children should be invited to weddings. Weddings are about joining families and the cycle of generations. Also, children will do something that will mess up your perfect day, which is good. Because if the first day of your marriage is perfect, it’s only downhill from there. 

There is a parenting philosophy built around the idea “I’m your parent, not your friend.” I get it, but just remember that the ultimate goal is in fact to be friends with your eventual adult children. So don’t blow that. 

Homemade birthday cakes are the best. Even if you’re a terrible baker, this is where the gesture and the attention count, not the professional quality. Just make it with love, in their favorite flavor, and as pretty as you can. 

High heels are instruments of torture and the patriarchy. Why wear something you can’t run in? Men don’t. 

Read the book before you watch the movie. I believe in the power of fiction enough to think that the book is the real story and characters. Adaptations are OK, but you should understand how the original concept is being adapted. Mr. Darcy never said “I love you” to Elizabeth Bennett, though Colin Firth did. 

Cincinnati Parks are magnificent. Spring wildflower walks in California Woods, the view from Ault Park pavilion, summer camps, concrete slides, French Park trails … reason enough to live here. 

I hear skinny jeans are out. Thank you, fashion deities. On the other hand, apparently low-rise jeans are back. Can’t win. 

Bottled water is a scam. A lot of it doesn’t even meet the safety standards of municipal tap water. Cincinnati has some of the best tap water in the country, and it doesn’t come in plastic bottles that will litter roadways and float up on beaches forever. 

Tipping is a crazy way to pay people. A whole industry is sustained on voluntary contributions! Weird. It also turns out to be racist and sexist and an inaccurate reflection of a worker’s contribution to the organization. 

Best things my husband and I have bought in the last couple of years: a Dyson chargeable vacuum cleaner and an Ego electric lawn mower with attachments. Life-changing. I don’t care what vacuum you use, but you really should get an electric lawnmower. 

When someone tells you they’re a teacher, say “Thank you for your service.” 

The best view of Cincinnati is from the cut in the hill, for the way it suddenly appears in the near distance. Too bad you can’t stop and look at it. 

There should never be a category called “exceeds expectations” on an employee’s performance review. It makes no logical sense, and it means you can never win. You were hired to do a certain thing, and if you’re doing that thing you should get your gold star. 

It’s not cool to show pictures of people with wild animals on Facebook. Or dating apps. Wild animals are not pets. They should be watched, with awe, from afar. And if a baby bird falls out of a nest, I think nature can handle it. 

If you feed the animals in national parks, you should have to go to a remedial reading class. And beginning ecology. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just all wear caftans all the time? 

Cancer sucks, and getting old is not for wimps.


Polly Campbell covered restaurants and food for the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1996 until 2020. She lives in Pleasant Ridge with her husband, and since retiring does a lot of reading, cooking and gardening, if that’s what you call pulling weeds. 


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